Boxy, but good

Do you remember that movie – Crazy People? I happen to work in the marketing department of a company that makes products that are "boxy, but good," so I hear that line a lot. But, that's neither here nor there. Because today, the day after my 35th birthday, I want to talk about cake. My favorite cake. Topped with my favorite frosting. It's the cake that my mom's been making for as long as I can remember. It's the cake that I made often for friends in college and, 12 years later, I still get the occasional email from one of them, asking for the recipe. It's not fancy, or layered, or covered in decorations. It's dense, and chocolatey, and oh so delicious. It's boxy, but good. 
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Heavenly Icing
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Heavenly Icing
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Heavenly Icing
This giraffe whisk was my gift from Walter. He explained as I was opening it that I would have to share. I agreed, as long as he would help make my cake.
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Heavenly Icing
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Heavenly Icing
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a jelly roll pan.
Combine dry ingredients. Bring butter and water to a boil. Add to flour mixture and mix until moistened. Add sour cream and eggs. Mix on medium for 3 minutes. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting with:

Heavenly Icing
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
Cook until thick. Cool.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
Beat until fluffy.
Add flour mixture. Beat well. Add 1 tsp vanilla. Beat until fluffy. 
Keep this cake in the fridge and enjoy it cold with a glass of milk.


That awkward, teenage stage

My head is so full of bee and chicken information that I can hardly keep everything straight. Maybe if I put some things here, in writing, I'll be better at remembering things. For instance, the chicks will move to their permanent home, the coop, at 5 or 6 weeks of age. I keep confusing this with the age they will start laying eggs, which is 4 or 5 months. Big difference. If we kept these fast-growing birds in that tiny brooder box for 4 months, we'd have some problems!
Chicks, 3 weeks old
Right now the chicks are just over 3 weeks old. Kind of gangly. Strange feathers sprouting from everywhere. I think three weeks is the chick equivalent to a human teenager. But they are still cute to us. We took them on a little field trip out to the (really-super-close-to-being-finished) coop tonight. I still think Walter wouldn't mind moving in with them. He loves these birds.
Chicks, 3 weeks old
Chicks, 3 weeks old
Walter and I have chosen favorites – the two Easter Eggers have caught our attention. They are the sweetest of the bunch, so far. Nate's favorite changes by the minute, but I think he's partial to the Rhode Island Reds. 
Chicks, 3 weeks old
Chicks, 3 weeks old
Molly's interest in the birds is growing as fast as they are. She catches a whiff or sees a wing flap out of the corner of her eye, and her ears perk up and she's ready to pounce. We have some dog/chicken training to do.
Chicks look tasty to a dog
Just a couple more weeks until they make the move to the outdoors. We'd better get to work finishing up the coop!


The bee movie

Even though I was too sticky to take photos of our first honey harvest, I certainly didn't want to leave the event undocumented. So I asked our friend, John Kuehl, of Kuehl on Location, to come and do some documenting for us. John has been taking our family photos ever since Walter was a year old. (One, two, and three.) These days he is venturing into video and, just like his photos, the outcome is fantastic. See for yourself.

It was a fun day with the whole family. My father-in-law helped us figure out how to put the extractor together. My mom held everything steady while I used the drill to spin out the honey. Nate helped wrangle the kids and brought us wet towels for when things got too sticky. And my brother-in-law treated us to home-cooked chili and cornbread. With honey, of course. I'm thinking honey harvest day could turn into an annual celebration. 


How sweet it is

Our first honey harvest was last weekend! I didn't tell you about it because I didn't have any photos to share (no one likes a post without photos). And I didn't have any photos to share because I was up to my elbows armpits in honey during the extraction process. My camera thanked me for not getting it involved. But today was bottling day – a process much less sticky than extraction. So here I am, with photos! Yay!
We took two supers of honey from Ramona. Each honey super has ten frames, so we had 20 frames of honey to extract. From those 20 frames, we bottled over 5 gallons of honey! Ramona is still working hard and we expect one more super of honey by the end of the season. Beezus is still struggling, so we won't be taking honey from her. We'll let those bees keep everything they can make.
First honey harvest
First honey harvest
We've decided to label our honey with the name "Quimby Apiary" in honor of our sister hives, Beezus and Ramona. I'm still working on designing the label. I'm my own worst critic.


Growing up fast

A little more than a week has passed since the chicks arrived and I swear they have doubled in size. Big feathers are starting to sprout on their wings and tails. They are starting to fly and they have discovered their roosting pole.
The chicks, week 2
It's fun to go down to the barn and see a few sleeping on the pole – doing just what chickens should do. The day after we got them Walter decided to name them all "Walter." He made a sign for the brooding box and everything. 
The chicks, week 2
But since then, he's changed his mind. Now they are all "Fastie," because they are so fast and hard to catch. I imagine their names will change a few more times before he settles on something for good. 
The chicks, week 2
We introduced them to their (still not quite finished) coop tonight. They seemed to like it in there. There's a good chance Walter will want to move right in with them. 
The chicks, week 2
The chicks, week 2


The field

When the geothermal system was put in, a huge part of our front yard was dug up and cleared. What used to be a field of tall grass, is now a field of dirt and weeds. It could stand to be mowed, seeded, given any sort of attention really. But for now, it has a few bases and that's all the boys really need.
The boys play ball
The boys play ball
The boys play ball
The boys play ball